Sum Of Your Parts

You’ve heard how something is more than the sum of its parts? Well, so are you; however, it helps to think about you in parts. So let’s think about your parts.

No! Not like that!

Last week (I’m shifting to blogging just once a week for hopefully more quality per post), I mentioned the idea of partitioning out areas of your life, and then changing these one or two at a time. These are the ‘parts’ of your life. All the things (ah, those abstract things) you want to do in life will most likely be associated with one of these life areas.

Using Scrum terminology, and some fancy footwork, replace ‘things’ with ‘Backlog Items’ and ‘life areas’ with ‘Products’. Poof. Magic. Tell him what he’s won, Johnny!

You can now be thought of as a package of products, each with its own backlog.

Or not. You can think of yourself however you freakin’ want. I recommend you try it, though. There are awesome payoffs, especially if you’re curious about the Scrum way of thinking of things. Let’s use an example. Take a guy. Random guy. Let’s call him… Merrill. He’s quite a number of wonderful things:

  • Merrill, the physical homo sapiens.
  • Merrill, the financially responsible.
  • Merrill, the musician.
  • Merrill, the ScrumOfOne thought leader. (Whoa! Were those angels singing…?)
  • Merrill, the home dweller.
  • Merrill, the guy who gets paid to break expensive things at work.

He’s oh so much more than the above, of course, but let’s treat each of these ‘life areas’ as a product. Thus, there is a Product Owner for each product, prioritizing stories based on a vision. Sure, Merrill could set a vision for himself as a whole person, but just as you might do that for yourself, I’ll bet this vision would end up being phrased in terms of some area(s) of your life. Thus,

Awesome Payoff #1: One awesome vision per product… many products per you… many ways you can be awesome!

Does this connote a lack of direction and focus? Nay, fair citizen. Dreaming out a better you is now not just dreaming big, but dreaming multiple dreams, and only the dreams you care about. Merrill, the watch-maker, isn’t exactly a Merrill that Merrill particularly cares about, especially not relative to the other Merrills listed above, so the direction is now better defined. We can now better address each life area, I mean, product, via some familiar Scrum-a-licious ideas.

Awesome Payoff #2: Grouping stories into releases per product leads to paths of punctuated evolution in each area of your life!

In evolutionary biology, as most memorable childhood stories begin, this is the idea that covers how phenotypic changes might be observed with relatively low frequency, even though genotypic changes are constantly occurring. In words a little less Grimm, you can continue putting in work, under the hood, although you won’t really see results until enough of these new pieces come together to ‘release’ a new piece of functionality. You keep evolving, with something novel punctuating the journey every once in a while: punctuated evolution.

Back to the example of the purely hypothetical Merrill, in this case, the martial artist, a release might be to achieve a yellow belt in the martial art of karate. This involves a number of steps (find a dojo, set aside funds and time, enroll, stretch regularly, practise that first kata without stopping, then with good form) that eventually, once all these stories are complete, unlock an achievement. Each ‘release’ for this product represents a punctuation in the evolution to becoming a fifth-degree-black-belt-super-dude, in line with the vision of being able to fend off enemies from attacking my Merrill’s village using a fifth-degree-super-stare. Now to find matching shoes…

I, I mean, Merrill can work on this while working on another product, say, Merrill, the home dweller. If that vision includes waking up to a cove in Maine, perusing Craig’s List’s Down East section may be a story. See how this works? All the things you want to do in life turn into stories onto backlogs of your ‘productized’ life areas. Have one area in life you feel needs some work more than others? You can manage this in the context of seeing the opportunity costs in front of you: the other stories in the other backlogs.

Awesome Payoff #3: Reduced overwhelm!

Or not. Maybe seeing all the things you want to do in life freaks you out, or as you’re working living through sprints, you feel you’re not moving fast enough. Well, you can only move as fast as you can (Merrill’s not cutting any corners by buying a yellow belt, especially without matching shoes…), plus, you’re the ScrumMaster role, too, in this ScrumOfOne model of personal development, so you can work on being more efficient (mastering the ‘how’) now that you’re more effective (mastering the ‘what’).

This is why I say there will be fewer feelings of being overwhelmed: your backlogs are prioritized so you know you’re working on the most important thing now or next, and that’s the best any one of us can do: knowing that all parts of you are taking up space on this floating blue marble in a way that is most aligned with how you want to deep inside.

Awesome Payoff #4: A more wholly enjoyable now!

Admittedly gratifying payoff: This post closes a loop opened about five months ago.

Change Your Whole Life At Twice

You might get to a point where you ask yourself,

Where do I begin?

You’ve got all these things you want to do, all these things you want to improve, all these things you want to change, all these… things. So you take all these things, list them, prioritize them, stuff I’ve been blogging about (see here for more).

Somewhere in the middle of all that, and closer to the beginning of this process, you think about your life. You think about how to think about your life… and then get to a point where you ask yourself,

Where do I begin?

If you read Steve Pavlina, specifically his series on The Meaning Of Life, you get to a section called Transitioning. This is for when you have your direction determined and are then acting on plans and projects to ‘get there’. The stuff in that post is also great for when you might not be as uber-organized or crystal clear as you go down your life path (like me! like most of us! HIGH FIVE!):

Don’t change each area of your life in a month. Change some and keep others stable.

Sounds simple, right? Don’t change your whole life at once, or even at twice, but in stages. Sounds like a no-brainer, so where is the insight? Once you reasonably partition out areas of your life, make a concerted effort to ignore all except one or two of your life segments.

Doesn’t that feel better? It’s another flavor of the message of focus (the Product Owner’s job in the land of Scrum), this time applied to life improvements at a macro level. For me, this means that I will start this year focusing on implementing habits and practices related to two areas of my life: my body and my finances.

Aaaaand this feels odd. This feels odd because it ignores my love of making music, which I’ve realized is the thing that makes my heart sing, pun intended. This feeling odd might be a sign that my focus is wrong, and you right there, sitting wherever you’re sitting, are witnessing a mistake in the making.

Aaaaand this is OK. In a couple of weeks, the length of my Sprint, I’ll have an opportunity to change direction after giving this a shot. This is a beauty of Scrum.

Happy New Year.

(Oh, and don’t make any New Year’s Resolutions!)

How To Be An Animal

My sweetheart recently got me a book: How To Be A Man, A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman by Glenn O’Brien. She knows I’m into this stuff, and found me a winner. (MUSHY ALERT!) Of course, I’ve already found me a winner.

The third chapter (they’re all bite-sizedly enjoyable) is entitled ‘How To Be An Animal’, wherein he mentions a very small set of things we as animals should get down, one of which is…

Getting enough sleep is essential. If God meant us to wake up at a certain time, he would have given our brains an alarm clock. (Oh wait, he did.) Sure you can get by on less sleep, but perchance to dream?

This is another sleep post (hm, exactly 11 months later). At least I’m more conscious (ha!) of how much less energetic I’ve been on the train rides back home as of late, and how I’m more often opting in to being an American that runs on Dunkin’. Entonces, ¡no mas! Time to bust this habit by creating a new habit to get at least 7 hours of sleep 4 times a week.

Sad to get to this point? Sure. And this is as good a time as ever to be a better animal.

Always Be Outputting

‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss has the following for a quote:

Lifestyle design is based on massive action.

Once you find out what this thing is that you want to always be, or always be doing, every day, that thing that brings you joy and excitement and inner peace and gets you feeling comfortable in your own body at all times, once you get to this perfect flow, just sit on your ass.

Just kidding. Go be active in this state. Of course, you won’t have to remind yourself, since you’ll want to be engaging in your new found freedom, you’ll want to be creating and connecting. Until then, until you’ve reached this ideal lifestyle for you, you are… designing your lifestyle. And what better way to get there than to… rehearse? Act it out! ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne talks about essentially playing ‘Make Believe’, which in this context is a full-contact, no-holds-barred version of visualizing. So, start creating. Keep creating. Don’t stop believing creating. If you’re an engineer like me, and you enjoy abstract things like system diagrams, then there’s always gotta be an arrow pouring out of the block that is the system of you.

Outputting takes time and energy and focus. The opportunity cost is inputting. This is reading stuff, watching stuff, and generally ingesting stuff that is not directly related to outputting. Want more time to create? Spend less time watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on Netflix and reading the New York Times. (You come up with your own version, this one is for me.) Thus, I announce a media fast, for myself. No reading fun blogs or news, very little Facebooking, no Netflix. This’ll give me the chi to work on this blog, creating music, and otherwise working on my Sprint Backlog. Reduce input… increase output. Makes sense, right? (Yes, to ‘output’ feels clumsy to reuse as a verb, but I feel it is generic and abstract enough to cover whatever lifestyle we’re ultimately after; plus, it lends itself to an easy opposite to deal with, ‘input’, unlike to ‘create’. “Spend more time creating and less time… destroying.” Nope. Misses the point.)

What I’ve noticed via continued output, specifically sticking to the discipline of cranking out two posts a week for this blog, is that I find this is getting easier. I feel like my blogging skill is becoming refined. I’m finding my voice. When I started this, I worried I’d run out of things to say; however, through continually outputting, I’ve found I’m evolving this idea of ScrumOfOne. This activity feels better to me, which I take as a good sign.

Always Be Outputting – think of this as your personal version of Always Be Closing.

Visualizing Via Pinterest

Crap, I’m addicted. I mean, I was addicted, but only for the whole evening yesterday.

Pinterest is a site to post linked pictures, organized by ‘boards’. Simple. It’s popular enough that when you’re reading an article that features a picture, right next to those buttons where you can Tweet it or Facebook it (that’s a verb now?) or Google Plus it (Google add it?), you can now Pin it to a board of yours.

What’s so (P)interesting about this?

I now have suit coats because I wandered in Marshall’s and knew what to look for. I knew what to look for because between Sprints (during my Sprint Planning), I read over all of my Product Backlog. Sure, this takes a few minutes, but it’s worth it – it reminds me of the person I want to be via clear (and Independent and Negotiable and Valuable and ‘Estimatable’ and Small and Testable) stories to get there. One of those stories for an awesome me was amassing a collection of suit coats. This wish comes from what I think is a better version of “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

Dress as the man that I want to be.

And how did this get onto my Product Backlog / master-list-of-what-makes-up-a-future-and-awesome-Merrill? I sat and thought, like Pooh Bear, and wrote it down. I visualized and wrote it down. What does Pinterest give me? A way to visualize (and find online or snap a pic of something) and pin it up. It’s a vision board. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne covers this, where you work with The Law of Attraction to bring to you what you want, which only really works with some deliberate measure if you know what you want.

So, in the Scrum spirit of things, I’ll be transparent (shameless?) and share my Pinterest boards, so you can see how I use them as vision boards:

http://pinterest.com/mblamont3

Happy pinning!